10/25/2007 12:00AM

Weather likely to play a role this Cup Day

EmailWith 0.8 of an inch of rain having already fallen as of Thursday morning, and a forecast that calls for the possibility of another 1 1/2 inches by Saturday morning, Mother Nature seems intent on having an impact on this year's Breeders' Cup World Championships.

According to the Weather Channel, there was an 80opercent chance of rain on Friday and another 80 percent chance on Saturday, though Saturday's forecast called for thunderstorms as opposed to steadier precipitation.

According to Bob Juliano, Monmouth's director of facilities and track superintendent, 0.2 of an inch of rain fell during the races Wednesday and another 0.6 fell Wednesday night into Thursday morning. There was a chance of some clearing and dry weather Thursday afternoon before the rain - some heavy at times - was expected for Friday, when the first three Breeders' Cup races were to be run. Juliano said one to 1o1/2 inches of rain could fall by Saturday morning.

"Right now it's not favorable," he said.

Thursday's races were run over a muddy main track, and the two races scheduled for the turf were run in the mud. On Wednesday, one race was taken off the turf, but the Rutgers Stakes was run over a good course with the temporary rails set at 24 feet.

Juliano said the course "divoted up a little bit coming into the homestretch, but the rest of the course held up pretty well."

Two turf stakes were scheduled for Friday, but Bob Kulina, Monmouth's president, said the $250,000 Epitome Stakes for juvenile fillies could be moved to the dirt if need be. Kulina was optimistic that the turf course could handle Friday's Juvenile Turf and Saturday's three BC races scheduled for the grass.

"There's definitely four races in the turf course on the rail because we haven't run on [the rail] since Haskell Day," Kulina said. "So, the rail is perfect."

Juliano said that if 1 1/2 inches rain did fall, the course would likely be labeled yielding on Saturday.

Attila's Storm, Dixie Chatter scratched

Attila's Storm, who was entered in the Breeders' Cup Sprint, and Dixie Chatter, who was entered in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile, were scratched from their respective Saturday races on Thursday morning.

Attila's Storm has a filling in an ankle, according to trainer Rich Schosberg, who said X-rays were inconclusive.

"I'm sure it's nothing major, but we're certainly taking no risks," Schosberg said.

Dixie Chatter came up with a fever, according to his trainer, Richard Mandella.

"It's not anything serious," Mandella said Thursday morning. "He had a little temperature last night, and it was 102 this morning. He didn't eat his feed. So we went ahead and treated him with medication and scratched him. It puts a little kibosh on the weekend."

Dixie Chatter traveled from California on the same plane as Cry and Catch Me, who on Wednesday was withdrawn from the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies with a similar illness.

Wet course here perhaps okay for After Market

John Shirreffs cut a solitary figure just after training hours on Wednesday at Monmouth as he walked slowly backwards around the clubhouse turn of the grass course, crouching every several feet and pressing his hand into the turf. This was not some ancient earth-worshipping ritual - this was Shirreffs, as usual, leaving no stone unturned in his job as trainer of After Market.

After Market came to the Arlington Million on Aug. 11 as the standout favorite, but never got a chance to show his stuff in Chicago. Million Week was rainy, and Shirreffs and owner Marty Wygod made the decision on race morning that the course was too wet for After Market.

"He's just a big, heavy horse, and he can't run on soft turf," Shirreffs said - both then and this week.

Well, it has been a rainy week on the New Jersey Shore, just like it was in Chicago, but Shirreffs, ever-prepared, said differences in the two turf courses may allow After Market to run - and more than that, to run his race - in the Breeders' Cup Mile.

"This course has great drainage," Shirreffs said. "Arlington is a native-soil course, it has a lot more clay, and it doesn't drain the same way. This is more a sand-based course. It's much different."

The impressive thing is that Shirreffs is based in California, not Chicago or New Jersey. Learning as many details as he can about the turf courses, he figures, is just a matter of being prepared.

"It's just doing my homework," he said.

If After Market were to be scratched, it would leave a hole in the BC Mile - and, surprisingly, leave Alex Solis without a mount on this year's BC menu. Solis has ridden 57 Breeders' Cup races, 10th-most in the event's history.

And the winning jockey is . . .

No jockey has won the Shoemaker Award for most outstanding jockey on Breeders' Cup Day more than once since the honor was inaugurated in 2003 at Santa Anita. But at least two of the previous winners, Garrett Gomez and John Velazquez, stand as good a chance as anyone else in what shapes up, as usual, as a wide-open Breeders' Cup not only for horses, but for jockeys as well.

Among the six Saturday mounts for Gomez are Indian Blessing (3-1 on the track morning line, Juvenile Fillies), Wait a While (4-1, Filly and Mare Turf), Midnight Lute (2-1, Sprint), and Any Given Saturday (4-1, Classic). Velazquez, with seven mounts, probably has his best chances with Honey Ryder (9-2, Filly and Mare Turf), Indian Vale (3-1, Distaff), English Channel (5-2, Turf), and Lawyer Ron (5-2, Classic).

Besides Velazquez, who was voted the Shoemaker Award at Lone Star Park in 2004, and Gomez, who won at Belmont Park in 2005, the other previous Shoemaker winners are Alex Solis (Santa Anita, 2003) and Frankie Dettori (Churchill Downs, 2006), both of whom also are riding here Saturday. The Shoemaker winner is selected by the media, and the award is presented at Sunday morning's media breakfast.

- additional reporting by Marcus Hersh and Marty McGee